NAWABSHAH: At least 30 were killed and over 80 injured after as many as 10 bogies of Havelian-bound Hazara Express derailed Sunday near Sahara Railway Station in Sindh’s Nawabshah district, 275 kilometres away from Karachi, officials said.
Commissioner Benazirabad division Abbas Baloch said in a statement that at least 30 died in the incident while passengers are still stranded in a bogie.
He said a relief train is also about to arrive and emergency has been imposed in hospitals of the district.
Accidents on Pakistan’s decaying rail system are common and successive governments have for years been trying to secure funds to upgrade the rail network as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative for infrastructure projects.
Benazirabad Deputy Inspector General of Police Younis Chandio said that nine out of 10 wrecked bogies had been cleared, with injured and deceased being pulled out.
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He said that the remaining bogie needs heavy machinery to be cleared.
The reason behind the train derailment remains unknown.
People on the site and local authorities have shifted the wounded passengers to the People’s Medical Hospital in Nawabshah, which reportedly can cater to around 1,000 people.
The train operations to and from the interior districts of Sindh were suspended after the train crash, affecting the routine of thousands, with railway authorities saying that it may take up to 18 hours to restore operations.
Authorities fear heavy material and life losses as the ill-fated train is said to be carrying a large number of people, even more than its capacity.
The train, comprising 17 bogies with a capacity of 950 passengers in its economy class and 72 in its air-conditioned standard coach, went off track on its way to Havelian from Karachi in district Sanghar, the senior superintendent of police said.
He said that 10 station house officers (SHO), four district superintendents of police (DSPs), and more than 100 police personnel are participating in rescue work.
Federal Minister for Railways and Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique, during a press conference, said someone could have “deliberately” caused the accident and it could also be a mechanical fault.
“First, we will provide relief and then investigate. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is reaching the site. Emergency has been imposed in hospitals in Sukkur,” the federal minister said.
‘All hospitals put on alert’
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon told reporters that at least 19 people had been confirmed dead and more than 50 injured.
He said the entire machinery of the Sindh government has been dispatched to the site of the incident for relief operation and added that those who are in critical injured will be shifted to Karachi for medical treatment.
All district hospitals including Sanghar and Nawabshah have been put on alert, the provincial minister added.
There were chaotic scenes at the Nawabshah Trauma Centre as ambulances and private cars ferried the injured for treatment.
One man leapt from the back of an ambulance clutching a child, his clothes soaked in blood, while a woman moaned in pain as she was carried in on a stretcher, according to AFP.
“We don´t know what happened, we were just sitting inside,” said one dazed woman.
At the accident site outside Nawabshah, dozens of cars, tractors, rickshaws and motorcycles could be seen parked on a road that runs alongside the track.
Volunteers were wading through a canal that separates the road from the railway line to help, and lifting the injured to get them assistance.
Some passenger compartments were upright but off the tracks, while others lay on their side, mangled steel from the undercarriage twisted and buckled.
Army, Rangers join police in rescue works
A large number of cops from the Police Training Center are also present for relief work.
Pakistan Army also joined the relief activities at the site of the accident after special instructions issued by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir.
Additional troops were also called in from Hyderabad and Sakrand with army aviation helicopters. The military personnel will reach the site with edibles for the rescued passengers.
Meanwhile, the Rangers’ officials told Geo News that personnel of the paramilitary force have also been dispatched for rescue work as per Sindh Rangers Director General (DG) Major General Azhar Waqas.
“Trained personnel have been sent to the accident site for immediate rescue,” the people said, adding that the personnel will immediately transfer the injured to the hospital.
Ambulances have also reached the site where medical aid and food are being provided to the rescued passengers.
It may be noted that the same locomotive — heading to Havelian from Karachi — had escaped a grave accident in March this year after railway officials put a rusted train on tracks. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
The latest accident came just a day after three coaches of Allama Iqbal Express — travelling from Karachi to Sialkot — derailed, but no one suffered injuries.
Pakistan has a shoddy record when it comes to accidents involving trains. In the past decade, the country has witnessed a number of deadly train accidents, and they seem to have increased in frequency over the past few years.
In June 2021 two trains collided near Daharki in Sindh killing at least 65 people and injuring about 150 others.
In that accident, an express derailed onto the opposite track, and a second passenger train crashed into the wreckage roughly a minute later.
At least 75 passengers burnt to death in a fire aboard the Tezgam express train in October 2019, while a two-train collision at Ghotki killed more than 100 people in 2005.